The crowd in the Inglewood High School auditorium had lost its patience with the loud white man in the sweat-stained Make America Great Again hat.
Arthur Christopher Schaper sat among a mostly African American crowd at Rep. Maxine Waters’ town hall meeting last month, calling the Los Angeles Democrat “the crazy black lady” and heckling her for his Facebook Live audience. People begged him to stop talking over “Auntie Maxine.” He said he was being discriminated against.
“God bless Donald Trump!” he shouted.
“Shut up, Arthur, you Nazi!” someone retorted.
As the police escorted him out with the crowd cheering, Schaper held up his phone, video rolling. The next day, he blogged about it, saying Trump supporters in California were “behind enemy lines.” His ejection was quickly chronicled as heroic by the far-right website InfoWars and by Sarah Palin on her Facebook page.
California is the symbolic home of the resistance to Trump, a blue state where politicians are fighting his moves on issues like immigration, climate change and healthcare, and where thousands have taken to the streets in protest.
Schaper is part of the resistance to the resistance, a Californian who delights in upending city council meetings in so-called sanctuary cities and shouting down Democratic politicians.
Schaper is so abrasive that the local Republican Party has disavowed him. But he is indicative of the growing extremism of debate in the Trump era, when the president’s supporters and detractors in California have waged violent, vitriolic protests in Berkeley, Huntington Beach and elsewhere.
“People are afraid to put Trump bumper stickers on their car,” Schaper said. “I’m going, ‘I’ve had enough of this.’ We’re going to fight right back. We’re going to defend our right to stand with our president, to stand for our values.”
Who is Arthur Christopher Schaper?
Schaper, a 36-year-old unemployed Torrance resident and blogger, usually shows up at public meetings in his red Make America Great Again cap, wearing a Trump flag as a cape. He records his escapades on cellphone video, narrating in real time as he trolls in real life.
Schaper's style — which includes showing up to Waters' office with a sign reading, "Maxine Waters Go to Hell" — caused the Republican Party of Los Angeles County to pull the charter from the Beach Cities Republicans club of which he is president.
Schaper is involved with numerous right-wing groups, including MassResistance, an anti-LGBTQ organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled a hate group. He said financial support from MassResistance helps fund his activism.
He and roughly a dozen supporters and anti-illegal immigration activists have become a particularly unwelcome presence at city council meetings in places with large Latino immigrant populations such as Cudahy, El Monte and Huntington Park.
They temporarily stopped an immigration town hall led by Rep. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) on May 30, interrupting his speech. Schaper got in Correa’s face, recording video as he screamed about “illegal aliens.” Three people — including a man who hit a Trump supporter over the head with a flagpole bearing an anti-fascism banner — were detained or arrested.
In March, they cut short an Ontario meeting led by California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, then gathered at a Coco’s Bakery afterward, vowing over dinner to “take California back.” The fracas was gleefully covered by Breitbart.
“Trump’s election has energized people on a side of the spectrum that has been relatively quiet in California in recent years,” said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles.
Although anti-immigration hardliners feel as if they have a friend in the White House and are more in line with Republican views nationally, in California they are more of a throwback to an earlier era, he said.
Schaper and his allies often plot their next moves at chain restaurants like Sizzler, Coco's, Denny's and McDonald's. In an interview at a Sizzler in Torrance — during which he propped up his cellphone on a bottle of steak sauce to videorecord a Times reporter — Schaper said his provocations are payback for the raucous town halls Republican lawmakers have faced since Trump took office.
“Being nice doesn’t work,” he said.
Being nice doesn't work.
— Arthur Christopher Schaper
The day before the election, Trump tweeted a link to a column from the conservative website Townhall.com headlined, “What I Like About Trump … and Why You Need to Vote for Him.”
It was written by Schaper, whose voice swells with pride when he mentions the tweet.
“Because of his lead on attacking and diminishing establishment media, it’s encouraged more of us to come out,” Schaper said of Trump. “The media narrative isn’t going to be dominant. We get to be the media now.”
Schaper was raised in the South Bay in a “churchgoing, Bible-believing, evangelical” family, he said. He doesn’t currently attend a church, saying “compromising liberalism” is causing churches to shy away from the Bible.
He worked for several years as a substitute teacher but said students mocked him and threw things at him. After he was laid off in 2012, Schaper, who complains of “welfare for illegals,” collected unemployment and got financial help from his father before going to work at a Vons grocery store.
Schaper is currently unemployed and uninsured, and was exempt from paying a fine for failing to sign up for coverage because his income was so low, he said. Yet, at Waters’ town hall he shouted about the Affordable Care Act: “I can afford my own healthcare! I don’t want to live off Mommy!"
Trump wasn’t his first choice for president, Schaper said. But he was swayed by the way Trump spoke about illegal immigration. He believes all people in the U.S. illegally, including those brought as young children, should be deported.
In May, Schaper went to an El Monte City Council meeting with fellow members of the Claremont-based anti-illegal immigration group We the People Rising, led by Robin Hvidston, who was previously associated with the Minuteman Project that led vigilante border patrols.
A few weeks earlier, they disrupted an immigrants’ “know your rights” forum in El Monte. Schaper — who said he contacted U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to report the event — was escorted out by police.
At the council meeting, Schaper and his group complained about illegal immigration.
“They hate brown people!” someone shouted.
“Racists, go home!” others hollered.
Chanell Temple, a black Trump supporter who said she lost a bookkeeping job because she couldn’t speak Spanish, said during public comments that immigrants in the country illegally are “riding off the backs of blacks,” usurping their hard-fought civil rights movement.
Schaper held a sign asking El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero: “Who do you work for?? Americans or illegals!!!”
“Verguenza!” Schaper shouted in Spanish, pointing at Quintero. Shame on you!
As the group filed out, someone yelled, “You’re the KKK!” Another person hissed, “vendida!” (sellout) at Trump supporter Loretta Sanchez, from Hesperia.
El Monte resident Veronica Tomas stood near the door, taking video as Temple walked toward her.
“Get that phone out of my face,” Temple said, walking into her. Tomas shrieked and dropped her phone. Police held the women apart as Schaper and the others rushed to the parking lot, whispering their next meeting place that night: a Denny’s in Temple City.
Quintero said the group is a familiar, if annoying, presence. As he was recently reading an article about them disrupting de León’s town hall, the mayor saw a photo of Schaper and another man sitting next to him, making a face.
"There was a picture of a guy sticking his tongue out, and it was like, ‘Hey, I know that guy!’ “ Quintero said, laughing.
A few weeks later, Schaper and crew went to the City Council meeting in Cudahy, a so-called sanctuary city, holding signs with messages like “ICE Hotline Call Now!” They were greeted by a sign that read: “Deport all white supremacists back to Europe!”
After the meeting abruptly ended because there were not enough council members to form a quorum, the scene devolved into screaming between the Trump supporters and dozens of livid protesters, some holding a Mexican flag.
Sheriff’s deputies pleaded with Schaper, by name, to walk away and escorted him to his car as a sheriff’s helicopter flew overhead.
Making the Sizzler great again
On a warm May evening, the Beach Cities Republicans club gathered at the Sizzler in Torrance, members filling their plates from the salad and taco bar.
Schaper was elected to a second term as the group’s president in the fall — which caused the L.A. County GOP to revoke its charter. Schaper says the party turned on him because he takes his cues from Trump and is willing to confront.
“They want to have a full social calendar, have a bunch of nice titles, eat, burp, and that’s it,” he said. “It’s almost like the Republicans have all but given up.”
In a statement, the county GOP cited Schaper’s “inappropriate activities” — disrupting meetings, intimidating elected officials and citizens — as a major reason for pulling the charter.
“Complaints about his activities from elected officials and everyday citizens reflect badly on the Republican Party,” the party said.
At the Sizzler, Beach Cities member Claude Todoroff, of Torrance, lamented the rift between the club and the party.
“We should be kicking Democratic ass, not our own!” he said.
One of Schaper’s guests was Joseph Turner, whose group American Children First unsuccessfully tried to ban children who came to the U.S. illegally from some Inland Empire public schools and to force the American-born children of parents here illegally to pay tuition.
“Us Southern Californians wear our anti-illegal immigration activism like a badge of courage,” Turner said. “We know ... we are the toughest and most effective activists in the nation.”
Schaper shed his abrasive persona as he led the meeting. When people spoke, he asked the crowd to please be respectful and quiet or leave.
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